June 26, 2022

India urged to Increase Women's Participation

R Karumalaiyan

THE 110th session of the International Labour Conference (ILC) of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) was held from May 27 to June 11, 2022, in Geneva, Switzerland. It established six committees based on the standing and technical items adopted. 

The report of the committee of experts on the application of conventions and recommendations covers numerous matters related to the application of ILO standards in which there is some open indictment against India’s poor record on labour inspection.

The report has noted that there was no Indian labour conference, the highest policy-making tripartite body on labour, since 2015. The committee also requested the government to strengthen its efforts to increase the active participation of women in the labour market and their access to sustainable employment, particularly for those facing multiple and intersecting discrimination.

The committee also requested the government to provide information on any measures taken to raise awareness of the need for men and women to share family responsibilities, with a view to facilitating women’s access to the labour market. 

The Indian government is requested to provide updated comprehensive information, including disaggregated statistical data, on the nature and impact of the measures taken to promote women’s access to full, productive, freely chosen and lasting employment.

The report on India said, “The committee requests the government (India) to take measures to ensure that labour inspectors are empowered, in law and practice and in line with Article 12(1)(a) and (b) of the convention, to make visits without previous notice. In this respect, noting that the code on wages provides for inspections subject to the instructions or guidelines issued by the appropriate government, the committee urges the (Indian)government to ensure that the instructions issued fully empower labour inspectors in accordance with Article 12(1)(a) and (b) of the Convention 81 of ILO. The committee also requests the government to provide further information on the meaning of the term “survey” in section 20 of the OSH and working conditions code and to indicate whether labour inspectors are required to provide notice of all inspections in writing under the code. It also urges the government to take the necessary measures to ensure that labour inspectors are able to initiate legal proceedings without previous warning, where required, in conformity with Article 17 of the convention. In this respect, it requests the government to provide further information on the meaning of the term “inspectors-cum-facilitators,” including the functions and powers of officials performing this role. Noting the statistics already provided, the committee requests the government to provide information on the number and nature of offences reported, the number of penalties imposed, the amounts of fines imposed and collected, and information on criminal prosecutions, if any”.

The conference commenced with a virtual plenary session on May 27, with the election of the conference functionaries. On behalf of India, 13 trade union leaders, 13 employers’ representatives and government representatives participated, including the union cabinet minister for labour, Bhupender Yadav. CITU national secretaries R Karumalaiyan and Usha Rani represented their union at the conference. 

It is to be noted that on the governing body of the ILO, there is not only a trade union, notwithstanding their liberal, right-wing lenience but also there are employers and government representatives. This is also the only UN agency that has anything to do with labour where the corporates and governments are also more visibly present in its leading bodies.

The standard-setting committee on apprenticeships was tasked with the view to set a new international labour standard on apprenticeships with a focus on expanding the scope and strategies for a quality apprenticeship. The new ILO convention on apprenticeships will be adopted in the next 111th ILC in 2023.

The general affairs committee advocated for the inclusion of safe and healthy working conditions in the ILO’s framework of fundamental principles and rights at work. The Committee also recommended amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006 to reflect the changing world of work, especially within the maritime sector

Accordingly, the delegates have adopted a resolution to add the principle of a safe and healthy working environment to the ILO’s fundamental principles and rights at work.  The ILO estimates that 2.3 million people around the world succumb to work-related accidents or diseases every year. This corresponds to over 6,000 deaths every day. Worldwide, there are around 340 million occupational accidents and 160 million victims of work-related illnesses annually.

Until now there have been four categories of fundamental principles and rights at work: freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour; the effective abolition of child labour; the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. This decision by the conference means that occupational safety and health would be the fifth category.

The fundamental principles and rights at work were adopted in 1998 as part of the ILO declaration. Under the declaration, the ILO member states, regardless of their level of economic development, commit to respect and promote these principles and rights, whether or not they have ratified the relevant conventions.

Each of the fundamental principles is associated with the most relevant ILO conventions. The new fundamental conventions will be the occupational safety and health convention, 1981 and the promotional framework for occupational safety and health convention, 2006 (No.187).

Similarly, the 110th ILC approved eight amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006(MLC.2006) which focuses on seafarers' rights and working conditions. The new provisions, expected to enter into force in December 2024, would supposedly contribute to enhancing the living and working conditions of seafarers around the world, based on some of the lessons learned during the pandemic.

The general discussion committee on decent work and the social and solidarity economy (SSE) has adopted conclusions complemented by a resolution. The 16 points of conclusion include an important definition of the SSE and provide guidance on promoting the SSE within the context of decent work. 

The committee also requested the ILO to develop a strategy and action plan on decent work and the social and solidarity economy, to be presented to the ILO’s governing body at its November 2022 session.

The recurrent discussion committee on employment discussed challenges in different parts of the world linked to structural transformation, economic diversification, climate change, modern technologies, and demographic realities resulting in rising inequalities, slow and uneven recovery from Covid-19, and huge decent work deficits in the world of work. The committee acknowledged the need for an employment policy framework that would promote sustainable economic growth and productivity in employment.

The high-level World of Work Summit; Tackling multiple global crises, promoting-centred recovery and residence was also held. Discussions focused on the urgent action needed to address the labour and social consequences of the current crises, and the use of human-centred approaches to support peace, resilience, and inclusive development, in particular for the most vulnerable populations. “While the picture is bleak and the outlook uncertain, we must not lose sight of our vision for a better future of work. The hopes and dreams of millions depend on us. We cannot let them down. Together, we must deliver on our promise of a better, fairer, more inclusive, future for all,” said the out-going ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder at the opening of the Summit.

The Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS) considered the Report of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR). The Report entails in particular, the observations on the application of ratified Conventions, as well as the Report of the General Survey under articles 19 and 22 of the ILO Constitution. This 2022 Report focused on securing decent work for nursing personnel and domestic workers, key actors in the care economy.

The conference is the highest decision-making body of the ILO and is held annually in June with an aim to advance the core mandate of the ILO. It brought together all tripartite delegations from the ILO’s 187 member states.